Small Talk Archive: May 2015

The World Made Small

Colonial Williamsburg Dollhouse

Generations of visitors to Colonial Williamsburg have witnessed history come alive before their eyes. Historical reenactors interpret everyday life in the revolutionary city, from famous patriots to tradespeople and shopkeepers. One of the best ways (and of course our favorite) to see how children lived in America’s earliest years is through the toys they played with.

The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum at Colonial Williamsburg has stepped out several of their dollhouses for an exhibit called The World Made Small. More than just playthings, dollhouses provided a way for girls to learn the importance of keeping house. Among the dollhouses on display is an 1820 cabinet-style house filled with over a century’s worth of family heirlooms, including a tiny chest-on-chest made from a cigar box. A massive fifteen-foot-long dollhouse from 1900 steals the show with Victorian furnishings that emulate full-scale homes of the time. Colonial Williamsburg staff and volunteers actually re-created several paintings from the permanent collection on a small scale to adorn the walls! Not to be outdone by the “girlish” dollhouses, the exhibit also features toy structures for boys including a fort, soldier’s campsite, and a farm.
Photo: Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg.

Miniature Museums Go Global

miniature museum

Can you imagine if one of our miniature artists created a scaled version of The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures? That’s so meta, right? You would probably need the power of the Hubble Telescope to see our collection!

In reality, that’s exactly what several artists are doing around the world. For example, in her traveling exhibit space, Gallery 1:10, Anna Lidberg exemplifies this phenomena in shows like If You Tolerate This. This special collection features two museum spaces. Miniature books created by Henrik Franklin sit on stands as if they were on display in one room while mini-television plays next door. Another Miniature Museum at Gemeentemuseum Den Haag features 2,000 works from over 850 famous artists including Roy Lichtenstein and Damien Hirst; all no larger than 10 x 10 x 10 centimeters. Each tiny work was produced specially for the museum. We like to think we’re trendsetters!
Photo: Courtesy of Henrik Franklin, henrikfranklin.com and Gallery 1:10.

Finely Furnished: The Tynietoy Company

Tynietoy

Rhode Island was one of the most distinctive places for furniture-making in colonial America. It was only fitting that Marion Perkins and Amey Vernon founded the Tynietoy Company there in the 1920s. The female entrepreneurs capitalized on the colonial revival movement in America and began making high-quality wooden dollhouse furniture based on early American decorative arts movements.

Wing-back chairs, highboy cabinets, and four poster beds all found their way into dollhouses. Each piece of furniture was hand-painted by students at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1923, the company standardized the dollhouse furniture to 1:12 scale (1 inch equals 1 foot in full-scale) and were produced in a variety of styles. Tynietoy’s high-end (and high-style) playthings sold at stores like Marshall Field’s and F.A.O. Schwarz. Upon Vernon’s passing in 1942, Perkins sold the company and by the early 1950s, Tynietoy had dissolved. Tynietoy dollhouses and furniture are (mostly) stamped with a trademark underneath and have become highly collectable today. Up next: a visit to T/m’s Tynietoy Georgian style dollhouse!

Seeing Double: The Devil’s in the Details

william r. robertson

And details there are! We’ve never tried it ourselves, but given a steady hand and a pair of tweezers, each microscopic door latch in Twin Manors can be locked with a sliver of a key. Every window glides open in its frame except for two fake windows on each side of the façade. These provide symmetry to the home, which was a very important aspect of Georgian-era design. And artist William R. Robertson even painted the brickwork with pigment made from the dust of 18th century brick!

Next time you visit T/m look closely and you can see a sampler in the back hallway by Robertson’s mom Esther Robertson. The sampler commemorates the completion of the two houses; the one in T/m’s home is dated 1989 for the first year the manor was on display. Come see it for yourself August 1, 2015 when the museum reopens!

Oh, You Beautiful Bricks

Beautiful LEGO

There seems to be no limit to what you can build with LEGO bricks. In recent years, a major traveling exhibition of fantastical LEGO sculptures has graced museums nationwide. Additionally, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers popping up across the world allow fans to unleash their inner architect. In 2013, master builders at LEGO even built a life-sized Star Wars X-Wing entirely out of the inches-long plastic bricks!

LEGO’s versatility inspired graphic designer Mike Doyle to spend hours creating his fantastical and artistic designs. One of his major works was inspired by the housing crisis in 2009: dilapidated Victorian houses built entirely in grayscale colored bricks (without paint or glue!). Doyle decided to combine his two passions in a new book entitled, Beautiful LEGO.  The book features everything from fantastical science fiction scenes to life-like food sculptures. In addition to featuring his own work Doyle solicited images from aspiring LEGO artists around the world.

Photo: Mike Doyle, Courtesy of No Starch Press.

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